Coronavirus: Germany turning roads into bike lanes to aid Covid-19 prevention

Cycling encouraged despite country’s current lockdown restrictions

Samuel Lovett
Monday 13 April 2020 16:39 BST
Coronavirus 100 days on: What do we know

Cities in Germany are turning roads into bike lanes to help people keep their distance from one another during the coronavirus lockdown.

Authorities in cities and town across the world have begun redesigning their urban spaces to ease growing pressure on parks, leisure trails and streets and limit the spread of Covid-19.

On Friday, a district in Berlin gave the green light to a scheme that had temporarily widened two bike lanes as part of efforts to improve cycling safety without hindering traffic flow.

Kreuzberg council declared the project a success, opening the door for Kreuzberg, Schoneberg and Tempelhof districts to follow suit in adapting road layouts.

Removable tape and mobile signs were used to mark out the expanded lanes, and can be easily taken away once the lockdown is lifted.

According to the Guardian, residents in 133 other German cities have submitted applications for similar pop-up bike lanes.

The use of bicycles has been encouraged across Germany despite the country’s current restrictions, which includes a strict ban on all but essential travel.

“The use of a bicycle allows citizens to meet the requirements for minimising contact,” a spokesperson for the transport ministry in Thuringia told the German news agency DPA.

Health minister Jens Spahn, labour minister Hubertus Heil and the German Cyclists Association have also recommended cycling as the healthiest and safest option of taking necessary trips.

Germany’s growing commitment to socially-responsible cycling follows an initiative in Bogota, Colombia, where 47 miles of temporary bike lanes were opened last month to reduce crowding on public transport and prevent the transmission of Covid-19.

A statement from the office of mayor Claudia Lopez read: “The bicycle, being an individual means of transport, represents one of the most hygienic alternatives for the prevention of the virus, especially in this first preventive stage in which it is recommended to avoid close contact and crowds.”

Elsewhere, officials in Philadelphia have closed 4.7 miles of Martin Luther King Jr Drive, a wide riverside road, to motor traffic while Denver has introduced pop-up cycling and walking lanes across the city to help people maintain separation while exercising.

In Winnipeg, Canada, four streets have been restricted to cycling and walking between 8am and 8pm for the duration of the country’s lockdown.

Other cities across the world are in the process of drawing up and planning new cycling routes – though London has yet to take action, despite a 63 per cent drop in traffic across the city’s main roads.

“We’re very surprised London hasn’t followed the approach of other cities in accommodating the increasing number of cyclists on the roads,” Simon Monk, an infrastructure campaigns manager at London Cycling Campaign, told The Independent.

He pointed to the example of Hackney in east London where the local council is planning to temporarily filter its streets during the lockdown, but said authorities needed to do more.

“Anecdotal data suggests there’s been an increase among people who weren’t previously cycling before. A lot of cities across the world are coning off roads for temporary cycle lines – we should be looking into this.”

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